Today, strategic business planning is a natural part of the management of any organization. But this is nothing new. As early as the 19th century, organizations looked to the future, trying to determine the best path to achieve their future goals.
What has changed, however, is the speed of business. At the time, a 10-year plan was adequate and a five-year review cycle was normal. For organizations today, even annual plans are insufficient. Rather, shorter planning cycles and more constant review are needed to keep up with short and long term goals and to stay on top of changes in the market, industry and business. The business environment is more competitive than ever and ever-changing technological advancements (and technological disruption) require constant diligence to keep pace, which is why today’s business leaders know the plans are the best. most successful are agile and continuous.
Just take the example of the recent pandemic. The companies best able to stay ahead of the curve were those that could change course without waiting for the start of the next planning cycle. Through agile planning processes, they were able to pivot in the blink of an eye while staying on track to meet their growth goals.
So it’s no wonder that in an ever-changing world, agile business planning has become the best way to sustain your organization. And when done right, it also keeps you on top of what really matters to your organization at the same time.
Where it starts
Agile business planning understands that market conditions don’t change based on your fiscal calendar and that those plans need to be iterative and collaborative to keep pace. Operationalized across the enterprise, it makes resilience, execution alignment and sustainable growth more possible, keeping companies ready for change and on track to achieve their goals. At the same time, the most agile planning processes always question whether these goals are the right ones, giving you the flexibility to adjust them when they’re not.
Additionally, the most agile business planning processes are driven by finance, drawing on many of the same tools, conversations, and data as finance teams. And by keeping pace with your financial calendar, it becomes a natural part of the business cycle.
The following four steps can help you achieve this.
1. Create an agile data collection process
Today we have a sea of data to tap into, which can get a bit overwhelming if you start from scratch every time. By continuing to collect data throughout the year, using it to fuel your financial and operational pace, you take some of the load off your data collection process. But that doesn’t mean you want to spend all of your time collecting data, either. The right technology and the right people can help you achieve your goals, providing real-time reporting and insight so you can spend more time analyzing data rather than collecting it.
2. Constantly reflect on and realign your goals
Of course, the data is just the start, you also need to focus on the story behind it. This means reflecting on the information you have and collaborating regularly with the management team and key stakeholders regarding the direction and strategic priorities of your business. In doing so, you can constantly test those goals, determine where you can do better, what you need to keep doing the same way, and what you need to stop doing altogether.
3. Refine your priorities and get the support you need
Once you’ve adjusted your strategic goals if necessary, narrow this list down to your top priorities, then make sure your entire team is aligned and focused on those goals. But organizational alignment is just the start – you also need to make sure your plan is adequately funded. Because without the right budget, you won’t get anywhere, making your plan nothing but words on a screen.
4. Create, communicate and deliver your plan
Finally, the last step is to write your plan and put it into action. By putting your plan on one page, including not only your strategic business goals and the actions you plan to take to achieve them, but also your mission statement and core values, you ensure that everyone understands your goals. and how you want to reach them. It also gives you a place to iterate as needed over time. But that’s not all: Communicating, or even communicating too much, your plan to your entire organization is just as essential. This communication allows everyone to continue working towards the same goals and allows them to start producing results.
Build an agile organization
By integrating the planning process into the natural rhythm of your business, aligned with your financial cycle, leveraging the same tools, team and data, it will never be left behind. In turn, you are putting in place the necessary building blocks to create a more agile business, preparing your organization for success no matter what in the future.